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Employment Law Notebook

Creating Fake Documents To Avoid Your Employer’s Mask Or Vaccine Requirement? Be Prepared To Lose Your Job And Go To Jail

Lately there have been more and more new reports of employees creating or obtaining fake documents to get out of employer mask and vaccine requirements.  Doing so not only puts your job in jeopardy and puts others at risk of getting COVID-19 from you, but it could also land you in jail.

For example, N.J.com reported that an employee of the Woodbridge, NJ public school district was arrested this month for forging a doctor’s letter as way to get around the district’s mask policy.  The employee has been charged with uttering and falsifying medical records.   The Washington Post reported that three state troopers resigned after a co-worker reported they were creating fake vaccination cards.  N.J.com reported that Several employees at Newark, N.J.-based University Hospital were fired for submitting fake vaccine cards to comply with the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  The Associated Press reported that a New Jersey resident was recently arrested for selling 250 fake vaccination cards to New Yorkers, including employees of hospitals and nursing homes, for $200 on Instagram. For $250 more, a second scammer entered the fake card buyer's name into a New York state vaccination database, which feeds systems used to verify vaccine status.  The woman was charged with offering a false instrument, criminal possession of a forged instrument and conspiracy.   

In March, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) issued a warning notice that individuals are selling fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards and encouraging others to print fake cards at home. The warning notice indicates that real vaccination cards have the seal of an official government agency on it, such as HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and that anyone who fraudulently or wrongfully affixes or impresses the seal of any department or agency of the United States, commits a crime, under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017.  Doing so carries a jail sentence up to five years and/or a fine.  In June, New York passed a law making it a crime to possess a phony COVID-19 vaccine card or digital passport.  Additionally, the New York Division of Consumer Protection and the Federal Trade Commission are also investigating individuals who are making fake vaccine cards.

Employers looking to verify whether a letter from a doctor or a vaccine card is legitimate can do the following:   Doctor’s notes: If any information in a request for accommodation from a doctor seems suspicious or is unclear, verify the information with the doctor and clarify the ambiguity.  Real vaccine cards have handwritten information signed by the different individuals who gave the shots.  If vaccine cards are all printed from a computer that’s a red flag as would be dates for the two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna shot not spaced out in accordance with the CDC or manufacturer’s second dose requirements.

Additionally, employers with vaccine policies (whether government mandated or by the employer’s choice), would do well to inform employees that falsifying or submitting a fraudulent vaccine card or medical document is a crime with penalties and could subject them to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.